National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES)

Copper-Free Brake Initiative

On January 21, 2015, EPA, states, and the automotive industry signed an agreement to reduce the use of copper and other materials in motor vehicle brake pads. The agreement calls for reducing copper in brake pads to < 5 percent  by weight in 2021 and 0.5 percent by 2025. In addition to copper, this voluntary initiative reduces mercury, lead, cadmium, asbestiform fibers, and chromium-six salts in motor vehicle brake pads.

The Initiative will decrease runoff of these materials from roads into the nation’s streams, rivers, and lakes. Copper from stormwater runoff can affect fish, amphibians, invertebrates, and plants.

This initiative includes:

  • education and outreach to bring about the nationwide reduction in brake pads of copper and the other materials,
  • testing friction materials and constituents for alternatives,
  • marking and labeling friction material packaging and product,
  • providing reporting registrars’ and agents’ contact information to manufacturers, suppliers and other industry entities, and
  • working towards achieving the goals in the copper-free brake Initiative within specified timeframes.

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Numbers on Copper Reductions

California and Washington already passed requirements to reduce these materials in brake pads. Prior to these requirements, fine dust from vehicular braking released an estimated 1.3 million pounds of copper into California’s environment in 2010 and about 250,000 pounds into Washington’s environment in 2011. Estimates for California show as much as a 61 percent reduction of copper in urban runoff due to changes in brake pad composition.


In addition to EPA, the Environmental Council of the States, and eight industry groups signed the initiative:

  • Motor and Equipment Manufacturers Association,
  • Automotive Aftermarket Suppliers Association,
  • Brake Manufacturers Council,
  • Heavy Duty Manufacturers Association,
  • Auto Care Association,
  • Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers,
  • Association of Global Automakers, Inc., and 
  • Truck and Engine Manufacturers Association.

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